Christmas at Holiday House - RaeAnne Thayne
Abby Powell drove through the downtown area of Silver Bells, Colorado, fighting the odd sensation that she had somehow slipped onto the set of a Hallmark movie.
This couldn’t be real, could it? No town could possibly look so festive and charming and...perfect.
On this day before Thanksgiving, Christmas seemed to have already taken over the ski resort town. Snow was lightly falling, dusting everything with a soft, pearly powder. The holiday season was in full view, from the brick storefronts adorned with colorful Christmas lights twinkling merrily in the dusk to the wreaths on every door in sight to the crowds of shoppers in parkas and coordinating beanies who made their way out of the stores, arms heavy with bags.
If she rolled down her windows, would she hear Christmas music chiming through the early evening? She was tempted to check it out but glanced in the rearview mirror and decided her five-year-old son probably wouldn’t appreciate a sudden ice-cold breeze.
This snow-globe perfection seemed like a different planet from Phoenix, where her apartment complex manager at least had made a bit of an effort to get into the spirit of things. Before they left, she had noticed a new string of lights on one of the saguaro cacti in the common area near the barbecue.
“Are we almost there, Mommy?”
She shot another glance at Christopher. “Nearly, honey. This is the right town. Now I only have to find the address.”
“Good. I’m tired of the car.”
She smiled at his overly dramatic tone. No one could sound more long-suffering than a five-year-old. “I know it’s been a long drive, but you have been such a good boy.”
“Course I have. Santa’s watching.”
Christopher had been obsessed with Santa since before Halloween. She wasn’t exactly sure what had flipped the switch this year. If someone could figure out the inner workings of a five-year-old boy’s brain, she wanted to meet that person.
Maybe her son was finally old enough that the concept of a benevolent gift-giver made more sense. Or maybe his friends at preschool had discussed it at length.
“If he is watching,” she said now to her son, “I know he has seen a boy who’s been a big help to his mom on this drive.”
This trip, nearly eight hours, was their longest road trip together. Christopher really had been wonderful. She hadn’t been sure how he would be able to entertain himself for the journey. This would be a good test for the longer trip from Phoenix to Austin in a month’s time, when she would be hauling a trailer full of some of their belongings.
The only other long road trip they’d ever taken together had been in February when they had driven the six hours from Phoenix to Southern California. They had spent a long weekend there playing on the beach and spending an unforgettable day at Disneyland, just the two of them.
Everything was just the two of them these days.
Abby ignored the pang that thought always stirred in her. She did her best. She and Christopher took many trips to the zoo, the aquarium, local museums and festivals. She made certain her son had a rich life, filled with swimming lessons, playdates and educational opportunities.
She never felt like it was enough. Did every single mother worry she wasn’t hitting some mythical benchmark that defined good parenting?
Probably. Single or not, likely every parent, regardless of relationship status, stressed about the same thing. Why hadn’t anybody warned her worry was part of the job description?
Her navigation system instructed her to make a right at the next street. At the stop sign, she signaled, then obeyed and was struck by how the business of the downtown area seemed to melt away, replaced by a serene, tree-lined road bordered with older homes behind iron fences, each more lovely than the one before.
Where was Holiday House, her destination?
She peered down the street through the soft, swirling flakes that had begun to fall harder, obscuring her view.
Navigation system or not, she expected she would know the place when she saw it. During the two years they had been college roommates, Lucy Lancaster had shown her plenty of pictures of the huge, graceful mansion where her friend had spent the happiest moments of her childhood.
Abby could picture it in her mind: three stories, with a wide porch across the entire front, a smaller porch on the second level and three thick Doric columns supporting them.
She drove slowly, peering at each house.
“Will the lady like us?” Christopher asked, his voice worried, as they continued